PC Building 101: Tips for PC Building

Okay. So you have seen a lot of videos online, and have decided to start building your very own PC! Well, Congratulations for that! Not many people can muster courage to do something like that. But you may be wondering “Where do I begin?” or “How do I allocate my budget” etc. etc. But fret not, we are here to help you and you’ll be prepared to make the PC of your dreams in no time! 😀
Now we will talk about every component independently, so that it helps you understand properly.

Tips to buy a processor:
-Almost all your tasks would depend on your processor- from games to programming to watching movies etc. Allocating the right amount for your CPU is a vital, since it would affect the performance of your whole machine. Also, this choice would further dictate what motherboard you have to buy since some boards are made for Intel, while others are made for AMD.

Choose your brand. AMD or Intel. Well, I have no grudge against Intel, but I always find AMD technology to be way ahead of Intel and to top that off, they are on the cheap. But still do your research- while almost every program on earth is fine with both AMD and Intel CPUs, some projects and programs (Like the Hackintosh Project) makes it either harder to work with AMD or doesn’t work at all. Hence, for whatever reason you are planning to build a PC, research properly.

-After you are done with the Brand, next comes Choosing the right model. This step would decide how powerful your PC is going to be, how much money you need for your CPU alone, what socket motherboard you’ll need and if your CPU will bottleneck (to hinder other components’ performance due its own incompetence) other components of your PC.
Generally, for day to day activities and for 720p (sometimes 1080p as well) gaming, the Intel 4th generation Haswell Processors or the AMD FX 6000+ series Processors are the best choice. They are a balance between price and performance. However, for more intensive tasks like video editing and simulations you’ll definitely need an Intel 5th Generation Broadwell or more or and AMD FX 8000 series + processor.

-After you have finally decided to go for a Processor, note down its socket, the RAM it supports and power consumption. The best place to look for this information would be the manufacturer’s website. Other specifications doesn’t really matter if you are not building a “Super NASA Computer” or whatever. Just the Socket, RAM support and the power consumption. Keep this info handy, you’ll need it to buy other parts.
For example, If you were to choose the AMD FX 8350, you can find out from AMD’s website that it needs an AM3+ socket; It supports DDR3 memory and it consumes 125 W.

Tips to buy a Motherboard:
-It somewhat gets tricky now. Just like allocating money for your CPU, you’ll have to first decide how much you should spend for your motherboard. Why does it get tricky? Because motherboards house all your other components and it is necessary to keep future upgrades in mind, while not spending on extra features you won’t need, at the same time. Motherboards start right from about $45 and go upto $1000- and costly isn’t necessarily useful. Costlier motherboards, come with a plethora of features and *MOST* of those are for those who either overclock their hardware, perform extensive operations (like video editing) or for those who are worried about a certain aesthetic. Also, it is the motherboard that would define the whole size of your PC.

-Choose the right socket motherboard. Get hold of the processor information you collected earlier. Now depending on what socket the processor would fit, you’ll have to choose your motherboard accordingly. For example, the AMD FX 8350 supports AM3+ socket. So you’ll have to search for an AM3+ motherboard ONLY! Also, after you choose the said Motherboard, check its manufacturer’s website to get the list of processor the said motherboard supports. Also, you can find other important info like how many SATA and USB sockets it has, what RAM it supports etc. Note that info down.

-Choose the right form factor. Form factor means the size. Motherboards come in 3 main sizes: Mini-ITX, Micro ATX and Standard ATX. Mini ITX is the smallest PC motherboard, suited for MINI PCs. Micro ATX is, in my opinion the most suitable for both day to day activities to gaming. It comes with standard features and fits in a not so big not really small mATX case. Standard ATX is the standard sized board and generally has more (and better) features than other boards, but the size of the case it fits in, increases too. I suggest going with a moderately priced mATX or a Standard ATX board.

-The most important aspect- choosing the features. Like I said before, due to its wide variety of choices for each socket, it becomes difficult to choose what you need. So I’ll try to simplify it for you- Choose a motherboard, keeping future upgrades in mind. In my opinion a future proof motherboard (at least for the next few years) should have:

-At least 4 RAM slots. If you’re not planning for professional video editing or making a server, 4 slots of RAM should suffice for a really long time.
-At least 2 PCI express slots. Although just one good graphics card is enough to handle all the games, keeping that extra slot, would secure your PC’s future relevance.
-Has USB 3.0 ports and headers for USB 3.0 front ports. Although USB 2.0 is very much active, 3.0 is becoming the norm. And this small feature really speeds up the machine.
-Has SATA 3 supports. “SATA” is the standard hardware interface to connect storage devices like HDDs and SSDs. HDDs run on SATA 2, which is generally slower than SATA 3, which offers upto 6 GB/s of transfer speeds. Even if you are not planning to use an SSD now, down the line it would prove significantly useful.
-Uses the Latest UEFI BIOS. The old and generic BIOS is becoming obsolete. Find a board that uses UEFI BIOS.

And boards with all those features I listed above should start from about $100. A decent $120-$140 motherboard should be enough for all your normal uses. Also, I am not at all discouraging you to get a good, costly motherboard. I am just saying, the money you save buy smart-shopping a motherboard can be used to get a better Graphics card or perhaps accommodate a SSD as well. Some of my favourite motherboards include:
AMD: AM3+ Socket
MSI 970 Gaming Motherboard:
4x DDR3 RAM Slots; 2 PCI Express Slots; 6 SATA 3 ports; 4 USB 3.0 (2 rear+2 via headers); 14 USB 2.0 (8 rear+6 via headers); It has a Killer E2200 series Gaming Network Port and Audio Boost 2 and also comes with UEFI BIOS. Price $80

Gigabyte GA-970-Gaming Motherboard:
4x DDR3 RAM Slots; 2 PCI Express Slots; 4 USB 3.0 (2 rear+2 via headers); 12 USB 2.0 (2 rear+6 via headers); 6 SATA 6 GB/s Connectors; It has a Killer E2200 series Gaming Network Port and 115dB SNR HD Audio with built in rear audio amplifier and also comes with UEFI BIOS. Price $110

Intel: LGA 1150 Socket
MSI Gaming 3 Motherboard:
4x DDR3 RAM Slots; 2 PCI Express Slots; 6 SATA 3 ports; 6 USB 3.0 (4 rear+2 via headers); 6 USB 2.0 (2 rear+4 via headers); It has a Killer E2200 series Gaming Network Port and Audio Boost 2 and also comes with UEFI BIOS. Price ~$150.

Tips to buy a Graphics Card
Thanks to the recent days, a graphics card has undeniably become one of the most important part of your build, especially if it is a Gaming build. Now, like motherboards, Graphics Cards too, have a large variety and features to choose from. And with cards starting from as low as $30 and going upto $1000, all, with a different set of features, it could become confusing.
-Same as the other parts I discussed, decide your budget. Well, this would depend entirely on what you are planning to do with your PC. If it involves gaming and high resolution movies, then buying a card in the $150-$300 range would be the most valuable investment. Understand, what you want to do (what games you want to play and if at all you want to play, what other things could need a GPU etc.). Depending on that we’ll move forward.

-Graphics Cards use the PCI express slot in your motherboard. Most motherboards in the price range I suggested come with a v 2.0 PCI express slot and older ones come with v 1.0 or 1.1. Now most modern day cards are made for PCI Express v 3.0, but the plus side is that its reverse compatible- Any PCIe 3.0 card is compatible with v 1.0, 1.1 and 2.0. Of course this takes a toll on the card, and the performance is slightly decreased when running in reverse compatibility with it running at 95%+ of its power in PCIe 2.0 and about 85%+ in v 1.0 and 1.1. So, as long as your motherboard is new (preferably manufactured after 2010) there would be no compatibility issues as far as the graphics card is concerned.

-However, different graphics cards have different power requirements. While most of the cards below $150 don’t need a separate power connector connected to them, cards above that range (Like the GTX series cards by Nvidia) do need a separate power connector (typically 6 or 8 pin PCIe connectors) and also need a significant power to run. If you are just upgrading your card, do your research, make you sure your PSU has the required connectors and the surplus power, the card needs. Or even if you are building the whole PC, be sure to know if the card you have chosen needs extra power, direct from the PSU.

-The next things is version. Now like RAM, graphics cards too come in DDR versions- typically DDR3 and GDDR5. Now the basic difference between DDR3 cards and GDDR5 cards is that GDDR5 cards are faster due to its bandwidth. A common question among the first time PC builders is  ”My motherboard supports DDR3 RAM, does that mean I can’t use a GDDR5 Graphics card with it?”
Yes, you can. System memory or RAM does not depend on Graphics card memory. Like the CPU uses the system RAM, the GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) uses the GPU RAM, (which maybe of version GDDR5). The graphics card interfaces with the CPU through the PCI Express slot, so even if you have DDR3 RAM, you can go ahead and use a GDDR5 card.

-Then comes VRAM. Deciding how much graphics RAM you need. First of all, what is VRAM? Just like the system memory feeds (and holds) the CPU with data, the VRAM feeds and holds data for the GPU or Graphics Processing Unit. It hold data that is necessary to render image to the monitor like textures, frame buffers lighting information etc. I’ll try to be simple If you are planning to play the latest games in the highest details and don’t want to get a new card annually of every 2 years or so, then go for the one with more VRAM. Because the newer games or upcoming games would use all the VRAM they can get and lack of it will cause serious performance drops.

Tips to buy RAM

RAM or Random Access Memory is the system memory which feeds and stores data for the Processor. There are certain aspects, on which you need to focus, when shopping for RAM.
Version. The version or the standard of the RAM you need depends on your motherboard. The information you gathered from the manufacturer’s website should tell you what RAM version i.e. DDR2 or DDR3 or even DDR4, does your motherboard support. Depending on that you have to get that corresponding version of RAM. Most motherboards published after ~2009-10 use DDR3 memory.

Size. Too obvious, but still mistaken quite often. Both laptops and desktops use DDR3 RAM, but the sizes vary. YOU CANNOT USE A DESKTOP RAM MODULE IN A LAPTOP AND VICE VERSA.

Capacity. Till date, under DDR4 technology, 128 GB of RAM has been developed. But how much do you need? It depends. If you are not planning to use simulation programs, video editing programs or heavy multitasking, 8-16 GB of RAM is enough for you. A recent study depicted that 8 GB of RAM is enough to handle all the latest games at high settings and your day-to-day activities. That said 16 GB is literally more than enough.

Speed of a RAM. Although this doesn’t affect your day-to-day activities, the reason I am talking about this is because of mixing RAM modules of different speeds. Although technically RAM modules of 2 different speeds are supposed to work (with the higher speeds being downgraded to the lowest common speed), due to compatibility issues, sometimes, it may not work at all. So it is not advisable to mix RAM modules of different speed.

Voltage. Like speed of RAM, same goes for voltage of a RAM too. Although RAM of different voltages should work without any problems, it is not advisable to mix modules of different volts. Also, take a look at the motherboard’s information, you collected and check for how much voltage of RAM can it support and buy accordingly.

Brand. Unlike any other component, there are a lot of brands of RAM. While some are great others, not so good. It’s crucial to choose the right brand to ensure best performance. To be on the safe side, choose from anyone of these brands of RAM:
1. Corsair
2. Kingston Hyper X
3. G. Skill
4. Crucial
these are the best in the market.

Tips for buying storage devices

Secondary storage devices play a huge role in your build. From the general speed to storing your files. And choosing the right one is vital.

What kind? Well, depending on your motherboard (and if you accepted my suggestions) you should either have SATA 2 ports or SATA 3 ports. Like I said before SATA is the hardware interface to connect storage devices. So, if you have SATA 3, then you can get a small capacity SSD (small capacity because they are expensive). SSDs pump up the transfer rates, loading rates of your system phenomenally than their HDD counterparts. For the ideal setup a SSD for the operating and a HDD for storing other parts should be fine.

Capacity of the storage device completely depends on you. How much data you have and how much you can spend. A typical 1 TB HDD from Seagate should cost about $50 and a 256 GB SSD should cost about $80

Tips for buying a Power Supply
Most, no rather MOOOOOOOOOOST of the people spend tons of money on their Graphics Card or get an i7 or perhaps add a SSD, but forget one big thing- their power supply. Power Supply Unit of a computer is the heart of your PC- it pumps blood (not literally 😛 ) to all the other components. Going for a $10 PSU could prove catastrophic for your machine.

How much wattage? This is the question everyone asks when buying a PSU. Generally you can find 250 W, 350 W, 400 W, 450 W, 500 W, 550 W, 600 W, 650 W, 750 W, 1000 W and 1250 W PSU. While 250 and 350 W PSUs are used with Mini ITX motherboards to build a mini PC. While a PSU within the 500 W to 600 W is ideal for all ATX PCs which are not running the SLI/Crossfire setup or RAID setups. Still I suggest you check out all the packages/information about every single component. You’ll find how much power they need. Add all that and then add 100 more. The PSU that is the nearest to that wattage is the best for you.

-Modular/Non Modular? Modular PSU means the cables are not hooked directly to the “box” meaning you can plug whatever cables you need and remove whatever cables you don’t. Extremely helpful for cable management. But this is a feature which is typically found in expensive PSUs. Well… it is totally up to you- if you want to spend extra for that, great!

Certification- 80 plus Platinum/Gold/Silver/Bronze? You’ll often find this printed on PSUs. This is the efficiency quotient of that PSU. As you guessed, platinum is the best. However, if you are not that concerned about your electricity bill that much, I suggest you skip it. I have been using a Cooler Master Thunder 600 W for quite some time and faced no problems (or a million dollar current bill) whatsoever.

Price- A PSU in the range of about $60-$80 is fine as long as you don’t need extra power. If you do, then the prices go up accordingly with a Corsair 1000 W PSU being priced at $250.

Brands. There are numerous brands which make PSUs. While I can’t outright criticize them for blowing up PCs, but I can suggest you few brands you can always trust: Corsair- Cooler Master- EVGA-Antec.

Tips for buying a Cabinet

The final component of your PC- the deciding factor of the looks and size of your PC. Although it might seem really easy to get a case, being careful only makes it better.
-The Form factor of the case is a very important aspect. Although mATX motherboards will fit into full tower cases, getting to fit a standard ATX motherboard in a mATX case would be a real pain. Also, you’ll have to keep your Graphics card size and cooler sizes in mind while shopping for a case.

-The case you buy has to have enough ventilation to let the hot air that gets built inside the case, out. Without proper ventilation, you may find your PC slowing down and failing in due time. Choose the one with the maximum ventilation. Also look for a case that has at least 4 fan holes.

-Also check for the drives bays and caddies. Make sure there are enough for all your present HDDs/SSDs and still has room for future additions. Also with that, buy a cabinet which has bays and caddies for storage devices rather than installing them with screws. This helps in the building process a lot.

Front Panel ports. To use the headers in your motherboard to the fullest, make sure your cabinet supports USB features like 3.0.

Expansion Slots. There’s no meaning in buying a motherboard with lots of expansion slots only to know that your PC doesn’t have slits for it. Make sure you have enough expansion slot slits in your cabinet.

-Look for cable management options. Your PC would look absolutely dirty if you didn’t tuck your cables away. On the other hand if a cabinet is missing the correct cable management options, then it becomes a tedious task.

Some general tips:

  • Prioritize your needs and allocate your budget accordingly.
  • Research before buying anything. The GPU you want may not fit your case or the cooler you ordered may obstruct the RAM.
  • Always read the product information from the manufacturer’s website. That way you’ll get precise information. Also, note it down. It helps a lot.
  • Always keep future upgrades in mind, while choosing parts.
  • Before buying anything, always read online reviews. And read the bad reviews first. That way you’ll know what can go wrong, if things don’t work.
  • Check out for static electricity. Discharge it from your body by either using an Anti-Static strap or by building on an anti-static rug.
  • Put your motherboard on the box it came in while hooking things up. This way it’ll remain safe from static electricity.
  • Use a magnetic tip screw drivers. They are really helpful in PC building. Also, standard magnetized screw drivers does not damage your components.
  • Always apply thermal paste about the size of an uncooked rice grain on top of the processor and don’t spread it. The cooler will do that for you.
  • Assemble your components out first either on a test bench or any wooden/card board surface. This way checking for errors becomes easier.

 

Well that my friends, wraps this up. I hope we could do something to ease your PC building process. Like and share this post with your friends if you think that this was helpful. If you have any problems, we are always here to help. Either comment below or directly mail us for help. Stay tuned for our next post “Difference between a gaming motherboard and a regular motherboard”. Until then, good bye! 🙂

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